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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Repairing Moscow's Seat Of Nobles, Devils, Books

Woland, the erudite devil in Mikhail Bulgakov's novel "Master and Margarita," sat on the roof of this building across from the Kremlin before riding off from Moscow into space.


Were he to sit on the roof of Pashkov House again, Woland would find it less comfortable, what with gaping holes yawning between beams, building materials and cement -- all part of renovations underway to restore one of Moscow's most renowned buildings to its historic appearance.


The fictional connection to the devil is only part of the colorful history of Pashkov House, named for Pyotr Pashkov, a captain of the Royal Guards who bought the prime plot of land at a public auction in 1782 for his family estate. Two years later, the famous Russian architect Vasily Bazhenov erected the actual building, which became a model of Russian Classic style.


Bazhenov's innovations consisted of a sprawling garden between a gracious gate and the main staircase, while the central building was put on the same line as the wings and not behind them. The rooftop was decorated with a whitestone statue of Minerva, the Greek goddess of arts, which disappeared during the French army's occupation in 1812.


Worse damage was done in this century by a metro line running directly underneath Pashkov House, shaking its foundations and cracking its walls.


Since renovation works began in 1987, several details have puzzled archaeologists. A water well similar to those built by the ancient Greeks was discovered last year, but its purpose is still unclear to the researchers.


Another discovery was a series of what the chief of the project, Roman Grytsiv, termed "dark rooms," or boxes of empty space left inside the walls of the basement.


Grytsiv said the rooms were the beginning of underground corridors that have been blocked off by layers of rubble. "Nobody knows their purpose or where they lead and nobody has been there," he said.


Pashkov and his family owned the estate until 1839 when the royal treasury bought it for Moscow University. In 1861 the university made it a library and museum. After the revolution, the building remained part of the Lenin Library, the world's second largest, until 1987 when it was closed for repairs.